Window of Ruins


Window of Ruins.

Villa Bedroom Window, Boscoreale, Italy as seen at the Met.

Buried by Vesuvius in 79 AD, along with Pompeii and Herculaneum were other areas of the Bay of Naples like Boscoreale and its villas. Just one mile north of Pompeii, The Villa of Publius Fannius Synistor was home to many painted walls / frescos of Hellenistic and late Republic Period. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has the fullest reconstruction from original frescoes of a bedroom / cubiculum featuring a window. The window is barred and opaquely glazed. Perhaps barred for re-enforcement from 1900 excavation to acquisition 1903, the rare window intrigues me.

The elaborate, richly decorated walls of indigo, murex purple, red madder and yellow ochre juxtaposed with the flat abstract glow of a window intersected by a pried and bent grid. There is a play on reality: reality/virtual reality. The Villa existing only in pieces around the world in holdings of museums. The once north facing window of a once outside wall through which pyroclastic flows of Vesuvius appeared to have entered, is now within reconstructed rooms in a gallery in a wing of a museum.

I painted this window scene as part of my Ruins series and ongoing study of Wall Painting Style, decorative elements of Classical Roman motifs. When I visit back east, I find many examples of classical elements in architecture and decoration, like in the Boston’s State House. I had two sheets of tinted watercolor paper for a pair. Although the source photographs come from very different places, they spoke a common visual language. I’ve partnered them together here.

Celestial Amethyst

by Harley White

An amethyst ethereal was seen

in Herculean constellation grand

of gem’s celestial purple-splendored sheen

within a dying star’s outreaching strand.

In vivid planetary nimbus show

its death in living color to portray

the stellar rings around the rosy go

like jewel from the lava in Pompeii.

Midst Milky Way that cloud is most remote

from scene of where is played this brief vignette

with earthlings spinning out their anecdote

while circling star half through its span— and yet

past present immemorial amassed

beyond our beingness shall everlast.


Here in Santa Fe, the heart of town is the Plaza. You can find all sorts there on any given day or time, tourist and residents alike. There are from time to time pop up poets. They will write a poem for you for a small fee, $5 now. (I don’t think they are organized, just individuals with this same idea) One festival day near the Fourth of July, there was a traveling poet with an antique typewriter. As is my habit, I commissioned a poem about ‘Pompeii.’ I’ve included the photo here since the typing is part of the art.

Two watercolor paintings, poem, and poet...

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